SXSW 2018: Chi-Town

Keifer Sykes in Chi-Town.

Chi-Town follows the career of Chicago-born basketball player Keifer Sykes through both high school and college with the hope of landing a spot in the NBA.

Even though every basketball player will say that it’s not about the NBA, it’s bound to be in there when reading between the lines.  For Sykes, he wanted to use his basketball career as a way of getting a degree and get as far as he can.  Sykes has it tough with living on the South Side.  He went from playing high school basketball at Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side to playing college basketball for University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.

Director Nick Budabin brings a vérité approach in following the point guard for a number of years that aren’t without their ups and downs.  Along the journey, Sykes loses his dad, James, after finishing his freshman year at college.  It’s because of his dad that Keifer ever picked up a basketball when he was two years old.  Interestingly enough, Sykes’ own story is tied to that of the subject of Steve James‘ documentary, Hoop Dreams, as Marshall High School basketball coach Shawn “Shake” Harrington was paralyzed in 2014 as the result of a shooting.

Life may have dealt Sykes a bad hand but he makes the best of it.  Sykes opens up on the realities of being a native of the Chicago South Side.  The social issues may not be why a person would want to watch a sports documentary but it’s educational in this regard.  It’s not a good idea to walk around anywhere.  If there’s a group of people, they might be assumed to be members of one of the 625 gangs that call Chicago home.  Credit goes to film editor Chris Carson for putting together a montage that discusses all the shootings.  It doesn’t only complement the film but hits on the importance of Sykes wanting to have a better life.  Throw in a somber score from Ali Helnwein and Daniel McCormick. Despite the sadness and tragedy that surrounds Sykes, he perseveres to become one of the best players in Horizon League history.  He finished his collegiate career by becoming the first player in Horizon League to finish his career with over 2,000+ points, 500+ assists, and 400+ rebounds.

It’s not easy to make it in college basketball, let alone have a chance at playing for the NBA but Chi-Town is a documentary that sports fans will enjoy. Because of its powerful footage, Chi-Town becomes one of the few documentaries to take it to the next level.

DIRECTOR:  Nick Budabin
FEATURING:  Keifer Sykes, Lisa Sykes, James Sykes, KJ Sykes, Marty Satterfield, Shawn Harrington, Leevon Carter, Alfonzo McKinnie, Brian Wardle, Henry Cotton

An official selection of the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, Chi-Town premieres as part of the Documentary Feature Competition.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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